Say What? Phrases We Used Growing Up In The '80s

by Christy Heitger-Ewing
Originally Published: 
motimeiri / iStock

Last week when I was at the gym, a guy half my age told me that I had “cakes.” Since I’m not really versed in the lingo of today, I didn’t know whether to be offended or flattered. But after consulting the teenage daughter of a friend, I was told that to have “cakes” means to have a big booty. I’d never really thought of myself as having a Kardashian-sized tooshie, although I realize that “big” is a relative term, and yes, my behind is way larger than the skinny dude who made the comment. But whatever. I can bicycle long distances without my butt going numb, so cake me up, Little Debbie.

Lingo is so interesting to me—the way it evolves over time. Some phrases stick and live on to flourish in the next generation. Others die with lack of use. I had never really stopped to think much about the vernacular from my ’80s generation until the other night when my 11-year-old son asked me, “What do you mean when you say, ‘I’m so sure’?”

I didn’t even realize I was still using this phrase that originated during my teen years, but yes, I did say this often, my voice thick with exasperation. When the kids dump cat food all over the floor and then step over the mess instead of cleaning it up, I yelp, “I’m so sure!”

Or when one of my sons hauls off and slugs his brother for no apparent reason, the words tumble from my lips: “I’m so sure!”

Or when I ask my child to scrub his nasty toilet and he does one swirl with the brush and declares he’s finished, my eyebrows shoot to the sky, and I proclaim, “I’m so sure!”

So, yeah, I still utilize some ’80s vernacular, and why shouldn’t I? After all, we crafted some pretty awesome terminology back then. Remember these beauties?

Gag me with a spoon

Grody to the max

Barf me out





Totally awesome

Like, totally

Like, whatever


Don’t have a cow, man

Take a chill pill

No, duh

Damn skippy


Anything with “amundo” tacked onto the end (“I’m starving-amundo,” or “You’re a dork-amundo.”)

I think it was my brother, however, who most heavily embraced ’80s lingo. I say this because he spent the majority of his high school years blurting out one of two things: 1) “I dogged you” or 2) “Face,” said while simultaneously rubbing his chin. If he could resurrect any ’80s term, I imagine it would be “face” so that he could race his colleagues to the elevator and holler, “Face!”

As for me, I suggested to my son that he try and revive the phrase “I’m so sure”—especially since I already use it so fluently in our household. But he just rolled his eyes and said that he and his peers have their own modern-day terms, and I’m sure they do. But let’s get real: Nothing can rival the brilliance of “Don’t have a cow, man” or “Gag me with a spoon.” I mean, no, duh.

When I polled my friends to ask them which phrases they often heard back in the day that are just not used anymore, my buddy Pete responded, “Dial the phone.”


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